I DON’T want to spoil any Christmas magic – but from annual school fairs to shopping centres, I’ve met more than a few Santas in my time.
As a dad-of-two, I’m no stranger to a festive attraction, almost always capped off with a chat to the main man.
My two children, Charlotte and Louis, listen intently, quietly prepared to accept he may actually be one of Father Christmas’s “helpers” because he’s so busy at this time of year.
But last weekend, we met the REAL one. And we all believed it.
Lapland UK is every bit the winter wonderland it promises to be. It is nestled in the woodland outside Ascot, Berks, and the seasonal theme park combines actors and performances, immersive experiences and a range of activities.
It is compelling and engaging from the moment you arrive.
Staff present adults with reindeer and husky-themed Covid- secure masks and guests enter the elven village through an immaculately themed reception hall to receive our “elf passports”.
We are immediately transported into the fantasy world of the Enchanted Forest, where the staff never break character, and “The Untold Story of Father Christmas and his Elves” begins.
It is all carefully choreographed around social distancing, and other safety measures are cunningly integrated with the show’s sets.
Elves guide excitable children (mine are days from turning three and six) through a labyrinth of tree-lined tunnels, all snow- covered.
They connect a series of spaces in which more actors continue the adventure through stories, performances and interactions — including helping in Santa’s workshop and decorating gingerbread with Mrs Christmas — before finally arriving in the elf village.
Here, an ice rink takes centre stage, with food and drink stalls, more interactive amusements and the usual gift shops.
But the attention to detail is unwaveringly impressive and youngsters — “small folk” as the talented cast routinely address them — are readily convinced by the artificial snow and sizeable scale of their surroundings.
With tickets ranging from £69 to £135, there is no denying Lapland UK is a serious day out. But having first launched in 2007, what appears today is a multimillion-pound enterprise that holds its own against the best of family entertainment in Britain.
The four-hour experience culminates, naturally, with a visit to meet Santa’s reindeer and eventually to his cabin nestled deep in the forest.
It is a place that guests can only find while being escorted through a maze of snowy fir trees by a suitably excitable elf called, in our case, Pudding.
What awaits is the most convincingly warm and engaging Santa I have ever met — one who, via the magic of a pre-submitted electronic form, is already well-versed in everything you might want in your stocking this year, if you’ve not been naughty.
GO: Lapland UK
MORE INFO: Lapland UK is based in Ascot, Berks, and is open until December 24, then re-opening on December 26 with a new post-Christmas storyline until January 10.
Tickets are from £69 to £135 and all adults must be accompanied by at least one child. Parking on site.
Covid protocols: temperature checks, guests must stay within bubbles, limited capacity, social distancing and enhanced cleaning regimes. See laplanduk.co.uk.
The man in red delves into his nearby sack to hand out some high-end early treats.
A glossy picture of the kids with him is included in the price, also a rare treat for parents used to forking out for extras on trips.
Fortunately, despite a few slip-ups, I’m on the “good list” this year apparently. And Lapland UK is on the “very good” day out list.
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